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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Chad Johnson Changes His Last Name to Ocho Cinco

Maybe receiver Chad Johnson can go by the name that his head coach hates.

Chad Johnson

Johnson

The Cincinnati Bengals receiver has legally changed his name to Chad Javon Ocho Cinco in Broward County, Fla., a switch that became official this week. Johnson, who lives in Miami, didn't return a message left on his cell phone Friday night.

"It's something I don't think anyone has ever done before," he told the team's Web site. "Have I ever had a reason for why I do what I do? I'm having fun."

Two years ago, Johnson gave himself the moniker -- a reference in Spanish to his No. 85 -- and put it on the back of his uniform before a game. Quarterback Carson Palmer ripped it off before the kickoff. After the season, coach Marvin Lewis -- who dislikes Johnson's attention-getting stunts -- referred to the receiver as "Ocho Psycho."

Bengals spokesman Jack Brennan said the Bengals had no comment on the matter.

Johnson has been a concern for the Bengals this season. He unsuccessfully lobbied for a trade in the offseason, threatening to sit out if he didn't get his way. When the Bengals refused, he relented and showed up for minicamp, but complained that his right ankle was bothering him.

He had bone spurs removed from the ankle and was limited at the start of training camp. In the second preseason game, he landed awkwardly and temporarily dislocated his left shoulder. Johnson is wearing a harness and expects to play in the season opener against Baltimore.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Sources: De La Hoya, Pacquiao agree to Dec. 6 fight in Vegas

De La Hoya To Announce Fight With Pacquiao

Oscar De La Hoya, boxing's biggest star, will announce Thursday that he will meet pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao on Dec. 6, two sources close to the fight told ESPN.com.

Top Rank's Bob Arum, whose company promotes Pacquiao, would not confirm a deal was in place for what would be the year's biggest fight, but he did tell ESPN.com that De La Hoya would host a media teleconference at 2 p.m. ET on Thursday to announce his opponent.

"We'll know who is he is fighting tomorrow," Arum said Wednesday from Youngstown, Ohio, where he was attending a promotional event for the Kelly Pavlik-Bernard Hopkins fight that he is co-promoting with De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions. "I made a commitment that I wouldn't say anything and that tomorrow there would be an announcement. I'm not allowed to make any comments. Everything will be clear on Thursday."

Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer would not confirm the deal when asked , but sounded positive when asked about it.

"Last week the deal was 90 percent dead, but we were able to revive it. The fact that it has been so quiet is a good sign," Schaefer said from Mexico, where he was traveling on business with De La Hoya. "It's been a lot of back and forth and skillful negotiating and to try to get each side to soften their stance. If the fight was Arum versus Schaefer, it would have been made awhile ago."

Schaefer dismissed reports this week that welterweight titleholder Paul Williams was under serious consideration to meet De La Hoya. Schaefer said that although Williams' name was thrown out during an internal meeting, it was quickly dismissed, and no contact was ever made between the De La Hoya and Williams camps. Williams promoter Dan Goossen confirmed that as well.

De La Hoya (39-5, 30 KOs), who has repeatedly said the December fight would be the last bout of his storied career in which he's won world titles in six weight divisions, has been in talks with Pacquiao (47-3-2, 35 KOs) for weeks. But negotiations got bogged down when the sides could not come to an agreement on how to split the revenue, which is expected to exceed more than $100 million.

De La Hoya stood firm for weeks on a 70-30 split in his favor; Pacquiao was demanding a 40 percent slice of the pie.

The rest of the major issues, from the maximum weight to the size of the gloves, were agreed upon, with Pacquiao getting his way on a 147-pound weight limit and 8-ounce gloves.

The percentage split that De La Hoya and Pacquiao have apparently agreed to is unclear.

Freddie Roach, Pacquiao's trainer and one of De La Hoya's former trainers, has been an outspoken advocate of the fight, going so far as to say he would train Pacquiao for free because he was so confident he would win.

Roach told ESPN.com on Wednesday that Pacquiao, whom he hadn't spoken to much recently, left him two voice mails at about 7 a.m. ET.

"He left me the messages and at the end of one of them, he said, 'Thanks for all your help.' I read that as the fight is done," Roach said.

Pacquiao, a lightweight titleholder who has won belts in five weight classes and is a national icon in the Philippines, would move up to welterweight for the showdown with De La Hoya.

The fight is expected to take place the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, where De La Hoya has fought five of his last six bouts and seven of his last 10.

Dan Rafael is ESPN.com's boxing writer.

Original here

Japan's the place for baseball passion and fanaticism - not the USA!


by Ben Suenaga

Japan was the country of my early childhood, a place of which I only remembered three things – the deafening song of the cicadas (so loud in fact, while walking through the narrow back streets of Kyoto my wife and I had to yell at one another in order to communicate), the near Saharan heat in July, and the pungent scent of cigarettes at every turn.

It had been 20 years since I had returned and every fresh discovery made me feel more and more alien. If it weren't for relatives and what they call the "imprinting" process of my youth I would hold no resemblance to these people apart from my features. On this occasion the one firm memory I will carry with me would be the fervent, passionate and, it would be correct to say, fanatical nature in which the Japanese support their baseball.

Hiroshima is most recognisably remembered by the date August 6, 1945 - the day the atomic the bomb fell. Somewhere in the region of 140,000 civilians were killed and three-quarters of the buildings were reduced to ash as a result. The Genbaku Dome, also known as the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, a towering structure of steel and brick, remains as a reminder of what exists within the dark corners in the hearts of men. From this devastation a city was reborn and, with it, a baseball team - the Hiroshima Carp.

The spirit of this city is something I have never before experienced. The unparalleled respect and congeniality of the people is a true testament to the resilience of the human spirit. This same energy, this same enthusiasm I would later find out is also a noted characteristic of their fandom in baseball.

I first became aware of their team when seated in a cramped eating establishment (Hassei) which serves the city's characteristic okonomiyaki (best described as a savoury pancake containing any number of ingredients, usually a mixture of vegetable and seafood), known fittingly as the Hiroshima-yaki. Framed on the wall was a team photo of what seemed at first sight to be the Cincinnati Reds. Upon closer inspection, with the exception of the coach, the whole team was Japanese. Yes, these were the Cincinnati Reds with one important exception – the C in this case stands for carp.

In the evening we were strolling along the bank of the river which borders the Memorial Park and the Genbaku Dome after feasting on a five-course meal of another of Hiroshima's famed cuisines, the Hiroshima oyster - which are about four times the size of any oyster I've seen on my travels (a little larger than the size of my outstretched hand). The molluscs were served raw, fried, baked and stewed, and finished off with a bowl of cold noodles and tea. As we crossed over a bridge towards the Dome on our way back to the hotel we noticed a hypnotic sound, more of a rumble, or a clapping or stamping, or both, getting louder with every step.

Further in the distance, beyond the Dome, we could see the stadium, but until this point it was unimaginable to me that this sound could be created my these people. It would be the equivalent of the atmosphere of a Tuscan derby. We returned to the hotel, flipped through the channels and there it was... the Hiroshima Carp against long-time rivals the Yomiuri Giants from Tokyo. This is not like American baseball where the life of the crowd is only spurred by a run scored or trying to catch the attention of the peanut man.

There is no relaxing day at the park, sucking on hotdogs and the Coors Light silver bullet, this is a sporting event and, more importantly, these fans are there to support their city and their team. The crowd noise even through the hotel television was raucous and ceaseless. This beast, this organised animal of fandom relentlessly chanted the same thing over and over and over. It was foreign to me what they were saying but whatever it was, you could be sure there was mettle in it.

Football has quite a base of support and the J-League draws a lot of foreign talent, with Brazilians being a major import, but it still has not reached the level of their baseball both in support and skill. In fact, the real World Series - known as the World Baseball Classic - was won by the Japanese in 2006 (the US did not even make a placing in the top four).

If given the opportunity, please visit Japan and, furthermore, Hiroshima. Visit for the people, the food, the baseball and in remembrance of the tragedy which befell this city. Quite fittingly, here is a quote from Calgacus: "To plunder, to slaughter, to steal, these things they misname empire; and where they make a desert, they call it peace."

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Can Captain Joe save the day for the Avalanche?


Frei By Terry Frei

DENVER -- Colorado Avalanche officials have been kicked out of their Pepsi Center offices during the Democratic National Convention. In fact, some of those television talking-head segments, with a skyline background, have been taking place on balconies in the office area of the building.

So when player agent Don Baizley called Avalanche general manager Francois Giguere on Tuesday and said that Joe Sakic had decided to play another season, and that it was time to agree on a new contract, the reaction almost certainly involved a mixture of relief and gratitude -- and, yes, consternation. Something akin to: That's great … but now? After making the announcement Wednesday that Sakic had agreed to a one-year deal, and a $6 million salary that represents a $750,000 pay cut, the Avalanche also said team officials wouldn't comment beyond canned press release quotes until a team-staged Sakic news conference … next Tuesday. That might seem ridiculous on the surface, but as a resident of the Fortress Pepsi area of Denver, and as a fascinated observer of the chaotic conditions in the adjacent LoDo area and other parts of the area, I can attest that you kinda have to be here to understand what a mess it is. (Your turn next week, St. Paul.)
Joe Sakic

Michael Martin/Getty Images

Can Joe Sakic do it all by himself?

As scheduled, Sakic will meet the media Thursday at his Joe Sakic Celebrity Classic charity golf tournament in Sedalia, Colo., and sponsors bravely will attempt to keep the discussion restricted to Sakic's work with the Food Bank of the Rockies and its children's programs. Although the focus on the DNC, and Barack Obama's looming acceptance speech at Invesco Field, will curtail the number of reporters at the Sakic availability, he still will have to do considerable dodging to avoid answering the inevitable hockey questions. Sakic made the call Tuesday after sensing the mounting pressure and frustration among pockets of Avalanche fans, and after realizing that he was in danger of turning his indecision into a running joke. Oh, and after concluding that, yes, at age 39, he still wants to play at least one more season. His procrastination was the result of sincere angst. After a sports hernia limited him to 44 games last season, and limited his effectiveness for stretches both before and after his long absence from the lineup, he was pondering the possibility that if he did return, he faced the possibility of diminished … well, diminished everything. Production. Minutes. Prominence. It's unfair to say that scared him, but it certainly gave him pause for thought. Not for one second was it possible that this would become a Niedermayer-Selanne act. He was going to make up his mind before training camp. Even if that meant going through informal skating with his teammates as the final test, then deciding, he couldn't let this drag on much longer. Some of his teammates began skating informally this week at the team's suburban practice rink, the Family Sports Center, and (don't tell anyone this) reporters were beginning to pass through to see whether Sakic had showed. He hadn't, or at least he wasn't spotted on the ice. But the pressures to get out with the boys were going to mount, too. It also was fun to try to read between the lines of the limited offseason comments he did make, all of which emphasized that he hadn't made up his mind. To some, that sounded like a man resigned to quitting. To others, it came off as a man leaning toward returning, but wanting to avoid a reverse Favre about-face. Truth was, he was trying to make sure not only that he believed he was capable of playing at a level that would meet his own demands but also that he wanted to do it. Sakic is an off-ice conditioning fanatic, and even a slight diminishment in willingness to pay that price would have been a significant problem. One other issue: For several years, we've been talking about how much sense it would make for Sakic to play through the 2009-10 season, including suiting up for the Canadian Olympic team in his hometown at midseason, then hanging up his skates. But he doesn't want to be a sympathy or emeritus choice. He doesn't want to be lured into lowering his own standards and sticking around one year too long only because of the Olympics. Without Sakic, the Avalanche would have started to resemble a small-market NHL team, a prospect the spoiled fans of Denver would have abhorred. As it stands now, they probably will come in at about $52 million, or nearly $5 million under the cap. Peter Forsberg's availability remains in question, and Baizley emphasized again Wednesday that the Swede won't consider playing again unless his foot problems are cleared up. (Heard that before?) The captain returns to an enigmatic team, partially because of its unsettled goaltending situation in the wake of Jose Theodore's departure. If Jeff Hackett, now known as the "goalie whisperer" in Denver after his work with Theodore, can coax a similar recovery from another former teammate, Andrew Raycroft, and Raycroft takes over the No. 1 job from Peter Budaj, that would help. One of the reasons for Joel Quenneville's departure as coach was that he wasn't as high on the organization's young, homegrown talent -- mainly forwards -- as was the front office, and Tony Granato got a second chance in part because he said what the execs wanted to hear. Sakic and Paul Stastny will give the Avalanche that continued one-two punch at center, and Wojtek Wolski can remain on the wing. Marek Svatos, the Avalanche's leading goal-scorer when injured in March, has to prove he can stay on the ice. The defensive corps is a solid and complementary mix. If Sakic hadn't played, and if the goaltending hadn't stepped up, this was a 25-win team waiting to happen. Even with him, there still are plenty of question marks, because of the Avalanche themselves and because of some of the issues on other rosters in the division. Colorado hopes the wait was worth it.

Terry Frei is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. He is the author of just-released "'77" and of "Third Down and a War to Go."

Original here

Favre Funny

Favre Funny by BeachStorm.



Haaaaa! Two of the local churches have sign wars. I walk past each often enough to enjoy them both. This morning I had to walk home - get the camera and walk back...all risking being late to work...which I'm doing right now!

If you are an American football fan you get this. If you are not, or you've been living under a rock for the past few months...Brett Favre, the Green Bay Packers goldenchild retired and then reinstated and moved from Green Bay to the New York Jets. Bitterness ensues.

I just love the creativity of these sign putter-uppers. Soooo funny! Brightened my Tuesday!

Original here

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Will Cowboys break the SI jinx?

Sports Illustrated is out with its NFL preview, and Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo graces one of

SI cover.jpeg

six regional covers. In the magazine, Peter King says that DeMarcus Ware, Romo, Jason Witten and Terrell Owens are among the NFL's 50 best players.

Here's the kicker: King has the Cowboys losing to the Patriots in the Super Bowl, 30-16.

Look at it this way. At least he has the Cowboys playing in the Super Bowl.


Did Police Eject a Man from Yankee Stadium for Trying to Use the Bathroom During "God Bless America"?

From the inbox: Baseball fan Brad Campeau-Laurion says a uniformed police officer (perhaps off-duty but working security for overtime) forcibly ejected him from the stadium last night during the Yankees-Red Sox game.

Why? He says all he did was try to go to the bathroom while "God Bless America" was played during the 7th inning stretch. His letter reads (plus some updates after the jump):

082708uppertier.jpg

"I attempted to get up to use the restroom, rather urgently, during the 7th inning stretch as God Bless America was beginning. As I attempted to walk down the aisle and exit my section into the tunnel, I was stopped by a police officer. He informed me that I had to wait until the song was over. I responded that I had to use the restroom and that I did not care about God Bless America.

"As soon as the latter came out of my mouth, my right arm was twisted violently behind my back and I was informed that I was being escorted out of the stadium. A second officer then joined in and twisted my left arm, also in an excessively forceful manner, behind my back. I informed them they were violating my First Amendment rights and that I had done nothing wrong, with no response from them.

"I was sitting in the Tier Level, and of course this is the highest level of the stadium and I was escorted in this painful manner down the entire length of the stadium. About halfway down, I informed them that they were hurting me, repeated that I had done nothing wrong, and that I was not resisting nor talking back to them. One of them said something to the effect that if I continued to speak, he would find a way to hurt me more.

"When we reached the exit of the stadium, they confiscated my ticket and the first officer shoved me through the turnstiles, saying 'Get the hell out of my country if you don't like it.'

"Nowhere on the Yankee Stadium ticket policy nor on any posted sign does it say that forced patriotism is a required element to attend a baseball game. Nowhere in the laws of this country would that begin to be defensible.

"Furthermore, when the two officers returned to their section, Steve who was still in the stadium overhead one of the officers say 'We got to watch ourselves. One day we're really gonna get in trouble.' They were also spreading rumors with a fan with whom they were friendly that I had said 'This country sucks.'

"I do not believe in God, nor am in support of this country to a degree of patriotic fanaticism. The fact that I wanted to use the restroom instead of standing through God Bless America should not be grounds for a forcible ejection from a baseball game."

The man tells us he's left a message with no response from the Operations Office at Yankee Stadium. He's also contacted Norman Siegel, the ACLU, and filed a complaint with the NYPD Civilian Complaint Review Board. We're still working on getting a response/denial from Yankee stadium, but a regular attendee of Yankee games tells us, "This tip doesn't surprise me at all. Everyone has to stand, just like in school, and you'll get berated and harassed if you don't."

UPDATE: We just spoke to Brad, whose story is attracting a lot of attention. He has a few comments, based on your reactions:

1) I was not drunk. I had two beers about an hour apart and this was about an hour after my last one (hence, needed to pee). I have receipts to prove this, as I was using my credit card, and my friend who was with me as a witness.

2) Yes, I am Red Sox fan. I have lived in New York for over 8 years and I do not cheer loudly or wear blatant Red Sox attire at the games. In fact, I was dressed in business attire - dress shirt/pants/shoes.

3) I may have affected a little attitude, but nothing that warranted a violent response.

Last year, the NY Times looked at this confining policy. Apparently, post September 11, fans had complained that other spectators weren't singing or observing a moment of silence; spokesman Howard Rubenstein told the Times, "Mr. Steinbrenner wanted to do all games to remind the fans about how important it is to honor our nation, our service members, those that died on Sept. 11 and those fighting for our nation."

Original here

Barack Obama: White Sox 'serious' ball

by Mark Silva

That baseball that they play on the North Side of Chicago, that's not "serious'' baseball - at least not the way Barack Obama sees it.

Obama on the mound.jpg

Obama, a Southsider, was asked by ESPN's Stuart Scott what would happen if both the Cubs and the White Sox made it to the World Series.

"I would be going,'' Obama said.

"Who would you root for?'' Scott asked.

"Oh, that's easy,'' Obama replied. "White Sox.

"I'm not one of these fair weather fans,'' the junior senator from Illinois and presumptive presidential nominee of the Democratic Party explained. "You go to Wrigley Field, you have a beer, beautiful people up there. People aren't watching the game. It's not serious. White Sox, that's baseball. Southside."

(Photo of Obama throwing the ceremonial first pitch before Game 2 of the American League Championship Series between the Chicago White Sox and the Los Angeles Angels in Chicago, Oct. 12, 2005, by Ann Heisenfelt / AP)

Original here

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Kevin Duckworth autopsy scheduled for tomorrow

An autopsy will be conducted tomorrow morning on the body of Kevin Duckworth, the state medical examiner said today. The former NBA All-Star and Portland Trail Blazer standout died yesterday of undetermined causes in Lincoln City.

Dr. Karen Gunson said Dr. Larry Lewman will conduct the autopsy around 10 a.m. at the state medical examiner's office in Clackamas.

"We're still gathering details on his medical history,'' Gunson said.

Duckworth, 44, died Monday night, Lincoln County officials said earlier today.

A spokesman for the Depoe Bay Fire Department said the agency responded to a report about 10 p.m. of an unconscious man at Salishan Lodge. Paramedics worked on Duckworth for 30 minutes but he never regained consciousness. He appeared to have gone into cardiac arrest, fire officials said. He was pronounced dead at 10:23 p.m., said Lt. Dennis Knudson.

According to The News Guard, Duckworth visited Lincoln City to host a free basketball clinic for kids. He also was there to visit fans as part of the Trail Blazers "Make It Better" tour of the state.

The Blazers this morning released a statement calling Duckworth's death "an extremely sad day."

"Kevin will be remembered by fans as one of the most popular and recognizable players to ever wear the Blazers uniform, but to people who knew him, he'll be remembered as one of the warmest and biggest- hearted," Blazers President Larry Miller said.

Duckworth was a two-time All-Star who starred on Western Conference Championship teams in Portland in 1990 and 1992.

The 7-foot center was known as "Duck." He also played for San Antonio, Washington, Milwaukee and the Los Angeles Clippers during his 11-year NBA career. A second- round draft pick of the San Antonio Spurs out of Eastern Illinois University in 1986, Duckworth was only 14 games into his NBA career when he was acquired by the Trail Blazers from San Antonio in exchange for Walter Berry.

Kevin Duckworth grew up outside of Chicago, one of four kids. His dad was a long-haul truck driver, and according to a 1991 profile in The Oregonian, Duckworth and his father grew close during fishing trips. His love of the outdoors continued throughout his lifetime, and at one time he even considered becoming an elk rancher.

They would head up to Wisconsin or Iowa, maybe even stay in Illinois, and catch catfish and bluegill. When they were waiting for the bites, they would talk.

Anyone who has stood casting or sat on a rock, and then started the fire, can attest that hours of sentence fragments and smiles can be more significant in that environment than a year's worth of "how-was-your-day?'' conversations amid the tumult.

That's how Kevin Duckworth got to know his dad.

If someone challenged you to find the father of Portland's starting center and you didn't know where the "house'' seats were located, the stocky man probably wouldn't be your first choice because Edward Duckworth is not a particularly tall man. He's 6 feet. Max.

Yet up close, there are telling resemblances in the voices and faces.

"I was such a shy kid growing up that when I was in grade school and all that, I never said much to my father at all,'' Kevin Duckworth said after the Blazers' practice on Saturday, the eve of Game 2 of the first-round playoff series against Seattle.

"When he was driving the truck all the time, he'd come home and I'd only see him for short stretches. The fishing trips really helped a lot, because we'd go for a day or two at a time. When we started going fishing more and more, I got the opportunity to know him, to understand the kind of man he is.

"I believe that's where my hard work comes from. You think back to how your parents struggled for you, to what they did just so you could have certain things.''

After Kevin Duckworth signed an eight-year, $16 million contract with the Blazers in the summer of 1988 -- he had been making $175,000 a year before that -- he had messages for both his mother, Maxine, and his father, who have been separated for about seven years.

Kevin -- who played basketball at the park down the block from the old family house, then at Thornridge High School in Dolton, Ill., then downstate at Eastern Illinois -- told his parents to pick out houses. He would buy them.

"I told my mom before I even got in the league, 'If I ever get some money, I'm buying you a house.' That was one of my goals,'' said Kevin. "I didn't do it the first two years, but once I got established and I was fortunate enough to have some things happen to me, I could do it.''

Maxine chose a house in South Holland, just east of Harvey.

Edward looked around for three months, finally picking out a three-bedroom home with a full basement and a 2 1/2 -car garage -- right back in the old neighborhood. He's not sure, but he thinks the house cost well under $100,000.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Fictional Sports Invade the Real World

Authors love to make up games for their fictional worlds — but these games are typically unplayable in the real world. Quidditch served as the backdrop for plenty of dramatic action in the Harry Potter books, but it involves flying broomsticks and magic balls. Calvinball provided philosophical fodder in Calvin and Hobbes, but its ever-shifting ruleset makes real-world play confusing at best. But guess what? We’ve tracked down some bizarre examples of fictional sports performed in the flesh.

1. Muggle Quidditch

The full game of Quidditch can’t be played in the muggle world, at least not until we get our hands on some broomsticks! The fictional game involves organized teams flying above a modified soccer pitch, pursuing The Golden Snitch whilst avoiding Bludgers and attempting to score with the Quaffle. Confused yet? Clearly you’re a muggle.

Well, believe it or not, there is a real-world sport based on the fictional game. Called Muggle Quidditch, it’s an organized co-ed college sport that’s played on soccer fields. The Intercollegiate Quidditch Association includes 105 schools, and was actually profiled in the Wall Street Journal.

Muggle QuidditchMuggle Quidditch has some notable differences from the fictional game. For one, the Snitch is played by a human being (typically dressed in yellow) who is allowed to run from the field, pursued by the Seekers on foot (generally the entire school campus is considered fair game for the Snitch). Another rule change involves the Bludger: in some versions of the sport, Bludgers are dodgeballs served with tennis rackets; in others, there’s no Bludger at all, and beaters simply tackle other players.

For more on Muggle Quidditch, see the rules on Wikipedia or the WSJ profile.

2. BASEketball

The sport of BASEketball came to national prominence in the 1998 movie of the same name. In the movie, a pair of losers (who also happen to be Trey and Matt from South Park) invent the game as a mashup of baseball and basketball, and enjoy early success…until things quickly get out of hand. (Hilarity ensues.) But BASEketball isn’t just a convenient fiction — it’s a real sport that has spawned at least five leagues.

According to Wikipedia, film director David Zucker “invented BASEketball years before the movie as a game that everyone could play and held games in his driveway. It became so popular a small league was created. By the fifth season championship game, the event was so big that the city shut down the street and two local Los Angeles TV stations came to report on it.” So that was the first league.

BASEketballThe web is also rife with other BASEketball leagues. The most fun is a nascent BASEketball League hosted on Tripod. Its home page is remarkable partly for its spelling mistakes, but also for the message from its founder: “I still need a few last players to finish out the 8 teams. Its looking like it will be a 14 game season, with each team playing every team twice. I am working on the scedule the next few days. I need to get available days teams can play from a few people yet. Im looking to start next week. So get ready.” Later he writes, “I decided to postpon the league to next year….I will have a day and time decided for when games will be played…until then we will be playing exhibition games.” Until then you’ll just have to check out the list of teams, league leaders, and the schedule (such as it is).

Other leagues include “My League,” The Shenangahela BASEketball League (with teams including The Laser Cats and Voltron!), and the Burlington BASEketball League. (That last one actually seems the most legitimate of all.) While I’m sure there are more leagues, I just had to stop at five. They were getting too awesome.

3. Organized Calvinball

CalvinballCalvinball was invented by Bill Watterson for his comic strip Calvin and Hobbes. The game itself rebels against organized sports, as Hobbes declares: “No sport is less organized than Calvinball!” Calvinball’s rules are arbitrary and constantly changing (in fact, the only stable rule is that the rules must change), scoring is arbitrary and nonsensical (matches may conclude with a score of “oogy to boogy”), and equipment is entirely based on whatever comes to hand.

The nature of Calvinball seems to preclude any organization of the sport. But that didn’t stop one inventor from proposing a Professional Calvinball League in 2002. The proposal read, in part, “Since there will really be no winners, rankings and rosters are unnecessary.” Respondences were mixed, though one pointed out: “Since this is ‘Professional’ Calvinball, all players are automatically disqualified.” Hmm.

Although no evidence exists for an organized Calvinball league, there are many instances of people calling for one and even recording their own gameplay, perhaps with an eye towards some future international governing body sanctioning the sport. A Calvinball World Championship was proposed in 2006 on the site Wikimania, and included an amusing Calvinball Disclaimer Form, which asked the “Sucker” signing the form questions such as, “Are you a organ donor?” and “May we steal your wallet/purse prior to the arrival of a[n] ambulance?”

For more on Calvinball, check out Wikipedia or the official “rules.”

4. 43-Man Squamish

43-Man Squamish

43-Man Squamish was invented in the ninety-fifth issue of MAD Magazine by MAD’s “Athletic Council,” George Woodbridge and Tom Koch. It was designed to be unplayably complex, but according to Wikipedia, “MAD magazine received so many reprint requests from colleges, it appears that some colleges have attempted to form teams and play the game.”

For our readers who’d like to begin their own league, let’s just quote a bit from the rules:

Participants

Each team consists of one left and one right Inside Grouch, one left and one right Outside Grouch, four Deep Brooders, four Shallow Brooders, five Wicket Men, three Offensive Niblings, four Quarter-Frummerts, two Half-Frummerts, one Full-Frummert, two Overblats, two Underblats, nine Back-Up Finks, two Leapers and a Dummy — for a total of 43.

The game officials are a Probate Judge (dressed as a British judge, with wig), a Field Representative (in a Scottish kilt), a Head Cockswain (in long overcoat), and a Baggage Smasher (dressed as a male beachgoer in pre-World War I years). None has any authority after play has begun.

Gameplay

Before any game, the Probate Judge must first flip a coin, usually a new Spanish peseta, while the Visiting Captain guesses the toss. If he guesses correctly, the game is cancelled immediately. If not, the Home Team Captain must then decide if he wishes to play offense or defense first. Play begins after a frullip is touched to the flutney and the recitation “My uncle is sick but the highway is green!” is intoned in Spanish. Penalties are applied for infractions such as walling the Pritz, icing on fifth snivel, running with the mob, rushing the season, inability to face facts, and sending the Dummy home early.

If you can handle complexity, check out the original 43-Man Squamish rules from 1965, or the (only slightly) more followable Wikipedia explanation.

5. Brockian Ultra-Cricket

Brockian Ultra-Cricket was first introduced by Douglas Adams in his Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. While there are various, uh, difficult-to-implement rules (”Rule One: Grow at least three extra legs. You won’t need them, but it keeps the crowds amused”), the core game mechanic can be performed in the real world:

Rule Four: Throw lots of assorted items of sporting equipment over the walls for the players. Anything will do — cricket bats, basecube bats, tennis guns, skis, anything you can get a good swing with.

Rule Five: The players should now lay about themselves for all they are worth with whatever they find to hand. Whenever a player scores a ‘hit’ on another player, he should immediately run away and apologize from a safe distance.

Apologies should be concise, sincere and, for maximum clarity and points, delivered through a megaphone.

Rule Six: The winning team shall be the first team that wins.

Don't PanicBrockian Ultra-Cricket was the inspiration for Tim Astley’s slightly more pedestrian Ultra Cricket, an online cricket league which boasts over 550 teams from around the world. Playing in fourteen-week seasons, Ultra Cricket was popularized in the 1990s, when it was played via email. Read this review for some more history. Sadly, Astley’s vision of the sport is decidedly more human than Brockian, leaving the formation of a real-world Brockian Ultra-Cricket league in the hands of future generations.

British, German activists deported from China

China on Monday deported a British woman and a German man who took part in a protest during the Olympic Games, officials said, hours after eight American activists were sent home during the closing ceremony.

Mandie McKeown and Florien Norbu Gyanatshang were put on flights to Frankfurt in the morning, said officials from the British Embassy in Beijing and the Foreign Ministry in Berlin. No other details were given.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who attended Sunday's closing ceremony, had urged Chinese authorities to release the woman.

McKeown, 41, and Gyanatshang, 30, were part of a group of four who last week unfurled a Tibetan flag and shouted ''Free Tibet'' south of the National Stadium, one of the main Olympics venues. The group, which also included Americans Jeremy Wells and John Watterberg, was taken away by security agents.

Wells and Watterberg were among eight Americans who were sent home late Sunday, after the U.S. government expressed disappointment that the Olympics did not bring more ''openness and tolerance'' in China.

The U.S. criticism came at the end of 17 days of Olympic competition that generally went smoothly for Chinese organizers nervous about security and protests.

China's Foreign Ministry in a statement Monday said, ''The protesters participated in 'Tibet independence' activities and that is against China's law.''

The statement said China hoped ''the relevant countries will teach their citizens to abide and respect China's laws.''

No rallies were held throughout the entire Olympics in three parks designated as protest zones -- Chinese officials declined to issue permits to 77 applicants and detained some of them. A series of small illegal demonstrations -- largely staged by foreign activists -- were held near Olympic venues and at Beijing landmarks.

The foreigners mostly unveiled ''Free Tibet'' banners before being seized by security officials, hustled into cars and taken away to be put on flights out of China.

A handful of journalists trying to cover the protests were roughed up by authorities then released. There were also tensions with the media over China restricting access to the Internet.

Beijing had promised the media freedom to report the games and announced the protest parks in an effort to address criticism that China should not have been awarded the games because of its human rights record and tight controls on internal dissent.

In his wrap up news conference Sunday, International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge said the games had helped to open up China.

But Rogge also said the IOC ''found it unusual'' that none of applications lodged to hold protests during the games succeeded.

He said IOC officials discussed with games organizers the case of two elderly Chinese women who were ordered to spend a year in a labor camp after applying to protest, though the women were still at home under surveillance. The IOC was told it was a matter of Chinese law.

In the first week of the games, several foreign protesters were put on flights out the country within days of being detained. But in the final week, at least 10 foreigners were ordered detained for 10 days under rules that allow officials to hold them without charge for up to 14 days.

9-year-old boy told he's too good to pitch

Nine-year-old Jericho Scott is a good baseball player — too good, it turns out.

The right-hander has a fastball that tops out at about 40 mph. He throws so hard that the Youth Baseball League of New Haven told his coach that the boy could not pitch any more. When Jericho took the mound anyway last week, the opposing team forfeited the game, packed its gear and left, his coach said.

Officials for the three-year-old league, which has eight teams and about 100 players, said they will disband Jericho's team, redistributing its players among other squads, and offered to refund $50 sign-up fees to anyone who asks for it. They say Jericho's coach, Wilfred Vidro, has resigned.

But Vidro says he didn't quit and the team refuses to disband. Players and parents held a protest at the league's field on Saturday urging the league to let Jericho pitch.

"He's never hurt any one," Vidro said. "He's on target all the time. How can you punish a kid for being too good?"

The controversy bothers Jericho, who says he misses pitching.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Michael Phelps' Freakish Physique Explained


Swim demon Michael Phelps won his 8th gold medal of the 2008 Olympics last night, his 14th overall. How does he do it? It's that crazy 6'4" bod of his! "Generally, a man's arm span equals his height but in his case it's 6'7"—three inches more than his height. Naturally his arms work as powerful propulsive paddles, giving him a clear edge over others. His lower body, interestingly, is shorter than that of an average man of his height. His relatively short legs result in less drag or resistance. In short, Phelps has an upper body of a 6'8" person but his lower body seems to be of someone who is only 5'10", which also make the perfect plane in water." More science after the jump.

His size 14 feet may not dwarf Ian Thrope's size 17 but Phelps' double-jointed ankles allow him to do a ballerina's 'pointe' standing on the tips of the toes. It allows him to whip his feet as if those are flippers and break loose.

His unique constitution also produces less lactic acid than others which means Phelps takes less time to recover. And if he looks indefatigable at times, it's because of the Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, which he was diagnosed with at the tender age of nine. His daily routine is equally mindboggling.

He consumes 12,000 calorie every day and trains 96 km every week. Naturally it was hardly surprising when Russian swimmer Alexander Sukhorukov went on to describe Phelps as "just a normal person, from a different planet, a planet from a different galaxy."

Iranian basketball player barred from NBA.

A few NBA teams have reportedly reached out to Iranian basketball prospect Hamed Ehadadi to discuss a possible transfer to the United States. But, current federal law prohibits the teams from negotiating with Ehadadi:

basket.gifIn the letter, which was sent Friday, NBA legal counsel wrote: “It has come to our attention that representatives of Hamed Ehadadi, an Iranian basketball player, may be contacting NBA teams to discuss the possibility of signing Mr. Ehadadi to an NBA player contract.

“We have been advised that a federal statue (sic) prohibits a person or organization in the United States from engaging in business dealings with Iranian nationals.”

The NBA is applying to the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control for a license that, “if granted,” would allow teams to negotiate with Ehadadi.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Nadal wins gold medal in Olympic tennis

By STEVEN WINE

Photo 1 of 10

Dinara Safina of Russia reacts during her Gold medal singles tennis match against compatriot Elena Dementieva at the Beijing 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Sunday, Aug. 17, 2008. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)


BEIJING (AP) — Rafael Nadal will become No. 1 in the rankings Monday, and he is No. 1 at the Olympics.

The Spaniard won a gold medal Sunday, overcoming two set points in the second set and holding every service game to beat Fernando Gonzalez of Chile 6-3, 7-6 (2), 6-3.

The gold medal was the first ever for Spain in Olympic tennis.

Nadal was already assured of taking over the No. 1 ranking Monday for the first time, ending Roger Federer's reign after 4 1/2 years. Nadal has won 38 of his past 39 matches, including victories over Federer in the finals at the French Open and Wimbledon.

Elena Dementieva earned the gold in women's singles, taking advantage of 17 double-faults by fellow Russian Dinara Safina to win 3-6, 7-5, 6-3.

In women's doubles, Venus and Serena Williams of the United States won the gold, beating Anabel Medina Garrigues and Virginia Ruano Pascual of Spain 6-2, 6-0. The sisters celebrated with shrieks, then shared a hug.

Men's singles has traditionally been an upset-filled event at the Olympics, and Nadal is the first player ranked in the top five to win the gold.

He took charge against Gonzalez from the start, breaking serve in the second game. Nadal didn't face any break points until the 12th game of the second set, when he was down 5-6, 15-40.

Gonzalez failed to convert the set points, pushing a volley wide and putting a forehand in the net. The Chilean made five unforced errors in the tiebreaker to give Nadal a commanding lead.

Nadal ripped a backhand passing shot to break at love for a 3-1 lead in the final set, and erased two more break points to hold for 5-2.

He needed four match points to close out the victory, ripping one last forehand that Gonzalez barely could reach. Nadal collapsed to his back in jubilation.

The No. 5-seeded Dementieva closed out her victory with a forehand winner, then fell to her knees before walking to net for a congratulatory hug from Safina. Dementieva, who won the silver medal at Sydney in 2000, snapped Safina's 15-match winning streak.

"I never expected a medal — gold, silver or bronze," said Dementieva, 26. "It's unbelievable. For me this is the best moment in my career. I'll never forget it."

Dementieva has been plagued for much of her career by a shaky serve, but it was a frustrated Safina who struggled to put the ball in play. After double-faults she flung her racket, banged it against the concrete and smacked a ball into the stands, but the tantrums failed to help.

Dementieva also packed more punch from the baseline and hit twice as many winners, 26 to 13.

Russia swept the medals in women's singles when Vera Zvonareva beat Li Na of China 6-0, 7-5 to win the bronze. That victory made Russia the first nation to win all three medals in one tennis event since Great Britain did so in the 1908 women's singles.

Tennis was not a medal sport between 1924 and 1988.

The Williams sisters improved their lifetime Olympic doubles record to 10-0. They won the doubles gold at Sydney but didn't play in Athens four years ago because Serena was hurt.

"It does mean more for me to win it with Serena, to share this kind of moment with your sister," Venus said. "I mean, we are practically joined at the hip."

Yan Zi and Zheng Jie of China beat Ukraine's Alona and Kateryna Bondarenko for the bronze, 6-2, 6-2.

The women's singles final began with only about a thousand spectators in the 10,000-seat stadium, but it was mostly full by the end 2 1/2 hours later.

Dementieva lost her first three service games and needed 14 points to hold for a 1-0 lead in the second set, giving her a toehold in the match. A flurry of errors by Safina in the final game of the second set helped Dementieva break to even the match.

Safina said she felt the toll of playing nine matches — three in doubles — in the past week.

"I was not the freshest today physically," she said. "To serve, you have to push yourself up, to jump up. And when the legs are a little bit slow, it just doesn't go."

In the final set, Safina broke her racket when she double-faulted three times to lose serve and fall behind 3-1. She served with a chance to reach for 4-all but committed four unforced errors and her final two double-faults.

Dementieva then served out the victory to complete the best week of her career. She beat eight-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams in the quarterfinals.

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The Guinea Pig Olympics

Ever since Heracles blessed Olympiad with a stadium in honour of his father, Zeus, the sporting heroes of the day have taken part in the Olympic games. But man is not the only species to hold competitive sporting events

Tattoo? Symbiote? What the Hell is That Thing On Olympian Kerri Walsh's Shoulder?

For the longest time I thought the black sinewy thing on Olympic beach volleyball player Kerri Walsh's shoulder was either a confused Alien face sucker, a horny spider, a bad tattoo decision (a la Mike Tyson), or all of the above. Turns out I was way off, and it's actually Kinesio athletic tape from a company in Albuquerque. And upon further inspection, the hype surrounding the $15 tape appears justified, and goes way beyond helping athletes.

In addition to gracing the shoulder of one of America's finest looking athletes, the Kinesio tape also boasts magical properties, like the ability to assist and support muscles without inhibiting a joint's range of motion. Kinesio tape has actually been around for a while, and is available for a range of uses, but it took the modern-day Olympic games (and the right "spokeswoman") to see orders shoot up from 250 a month to 1,600 in a weekend.

John Jarvis, director of Kinesio USA, says the tape has graced the bodies of Tiger Woods, Serena Williams, countless baseball and football players, and cycling superman Lance Armstrong.

Surprisingly, Forbes notes that athletes comprise only 10% of Kenesio USA's customers. The largest market is pediatrics, where doctors have been helping children deal with neurological disorders for the past 25 years. With disorders like cerebral palsy, for example, the tape is used to help strengthen weak muscles. Kerri Walsh is great and all, but that's the real reason I can get behind this product. [Forbes]

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US Crushes Spain in Basketball

Team USA's Dwyane Wade takes a shot during a preliminary match agaisnt Spain.
Team USA's Dwyane Wade takes a shot during a preliminary match agaisnt Spain. USA won 119-82.

That's probably enough talk about statement games for Team USA in the Olympic basketball competition. Tonight's 119-82 destruction of Spain, the 2006 World Champions, was more like a throwback game: a throwback to the days of the Dream Team, when the US seemed to play a different class of hoops than its competitors. Spain has NBA star Pau Gasol, slick point guard Jose Calderon, and an established style of success in international ball. Yet tonight they got obliterated, wilting against the absolutely withering defense the US team has brought to Beijing.

"We had 28 turnovers and that's just a staggering number," Gasol said after the game. "You just don't have a chance with that many turnovers." The US led by 16 at the half, by 23 after three quarters, and played with relentless ferocity to the final buzzer. The only drama for the drained Spanish fans in attendance was whether Gasol & Co. were going to be able to break 80.

So far in the run-up to the medal rounds, the US basketball team has been on a higher athletic plane than its opposition. One statistic tonight shows just how otherworldly that plane is: Team USA scored 32 points off of fast breaks. Spain scored none. As US forward Carmelo Anthony said afterward, "I don't think I've seen that before."

And for the first time in this tournament, when Spain did manage to get the US into a half-court game, the Americans responded with the kind of shooting efficiency that some skeptics wondered whether they possessed. Anthony in particular was sniping from three-point land with positively European brio — shooting four of six from behind the arc. Consistently, the US swung the ball crisply in the half-court game, found the open man, and then nailed long-range jumpers: Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, Tayshaun Prince (three of four) and Deron Williams all made three pointers. Overall, Team USA shot 12 of 25 from three-point land.

Though anyone close to Team USA is too polite to say it, if they shoot that well in next week's medal round, they're not likely to play a close game. The "Redeem Team'' is half way to redemption, and at this point it's hard to see what might stop them. Just ask Gasol. "They wanted to make a statement tonight, and they did," he said. "They are for real, and they are very serious about this. It's hard to keep up with that intensity."

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Uniform Is Only Thing Different About Favre

Tim Larsen for The New York Times

Brett Favre completed 5 of 6 passes for 48 yards and a touchdown in his Jets debut.

By JUDY BATTISTA

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The touchdown pass proved that Brett Favre still prefers to throw to tight ends in the red zone. And the little fake jump pass was Favre reaching back into his personal highlight reel. But the most important play of his eagerly awaited debut for the Jets, the one that proved that Favre really might change everything for his new team, might have came earlier, on his first drive.

After Washington Redskins linebacker Marcus Washington sacked Favre on a blitz for a 10-yard loss, Favre popped up off the ground, guard Alan Faneca straightening his shoulder pad for him. Last season, the Jets became used to Chad Pennington and Kellen Clemens struggling to their feet, battered and bruised behind a gruesome offensive line. But Favre is football’s ironman and his legendary durability, nearly as much as his arm, allow the Jets to hope that even a 38-year-old future Hall of Famer in the twilight of his career can transform a team.

The Jets lost to the Redskins, 13-10, but more than the result, this game represented an important milestone for Favre and for a franchise that desperately needs him to feel at home. And fast.

“It was like starting all over again,” Favre said. “I had some feelings I haven’t felt in 17 years. It was a little weird. For the most part, I felt comfortable in this uniform. I had a number of people, mostly in Redskins uniforms, saying it don’t look right. It’s going to start looking right. It was a little awkward, but I knew we had to get through that.”

The arm looked fine, and afterward, Favre said it felt great, even though he had complained during the week that it felt tired. He took 14 snaps Saturday, completing 5 of 6 passes for 48 yards, including a 19-yard bullet on third down to Jerricho Cotchery on the deep left side — Favre said it was his favorite play of the night — and a 4-yard touchdown pass to the rookie tight end Dustin Keller.

When Favre moved the offense close to the end zone, camera flashes went off, a sight more often seen in the postseason than the preseason. And when Keller scored, half-full Giants Stadium — even Favre apparently can’t draw people back from the shore for a preseason game — erupted, and Favre was engulfed by his new teammates. After the game, Favre signed the touchdown ball and gave it to Keller.

“I felt like I threw the ball well,” Favre said. “Ten days ago, I was doing yard work. I’d be lying if I said I felt perfect out there. I wanted to get this game over with. It was a positive anxiety, a positive nervousness. It’s better than not having any feeling at all.”

Favre and Coach Eric Mangini had most hoped to see that Favre could smoothly operate the offense all the way down to being able to break the huddle and call the play without trouble. After exactly one week of practice, Favre still does not know much of the playbook — he had about 40 plays total in his arsenal Saturday — and he cannot remember everybody’s name, but even under a full moon, there were none of the mishaps the Jets feared. He gave way to Clemens with the Jets leading, 7-3, and many in the crowd left with him.

Favre played just two drives, and a better read on his readiness for the regular season will have to wait until Saturday against the Giants, when he will probably play at least a half, the longest stretch of work he is likely to get before the season opener Sept. 7 at Miami. Favre said he would play as long as Mangini allowed him to against the Giants, adding that he had actually hoped to play longer Saturday.

But considering that he had done little more than throw to a high school team since his first attempt at retirement five months ago, Favre seemed surprisingly crisp, his only incompletion coming when an off-target short pass to Thomas Jones fell to the turf.

“It’s important to give him a comfort level coming into the game,” Mangini said. “I thought it was an excellent start.”

Clemens, who 10 days ago was competing for the starting job, was 5 of 12 for 63 yards, and he did not lead the Jets to a score. (Brett Ratliff did, going 13 for 19 for 148 yards and setting up Mike Nugent’s 43-yard field goal.)

The Jets acquired Favre in part to invigorate an offense that had been moribund last year, no matter who the quarterback was. Favre’s quick connection with Cotchery seemed to suggest that he will become Favre’s preferred deep target, an element of the offense that was largely absent last season.

But the Jets also wanted Favre because he adds instant excitement to a team that usually struggles for attention. Fans on Saturday wore new Favre jerseys — next to those wearing Vinny Testaverde, Chad Pennington and even Glenn Foley jerseys, testimony to how many quarterbacks the Jets have cycled through while Favre was building his résumé in Green Bay.

“I’m not going to say I haven’t second-guessed the decision,” Favre said. “When I step on the field, as I did tonight, I knew I made the right decision. I feel like I’m a Jet. Does that sound awkward or funny? Maybe. It’s still a little bit awkward. But I feel like I’m here for a reason.”

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